R.I.P. Colin Holden


Saddened today to hear of the death of old friend Colin Holden. I was at theological college at Trinity College in Melbourne with Colin, and then his colleague as a priest in Western Australia. I met him several times after he returned to Melbourne.

Colin was enormously talented as a linguist, historian and writer. He was a generous but fragile friend. One of the remembrances I still have from Colin is this hymn which he translated as a gift for me in 1974. Reading it again, I am impressed by his skill with metre and assonance, reminding me that he was a musician as well as all the other talents. 

May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

A votive offering for Easter for Ted

Dawn fires the east with glowing rays
The heavens rejoice in hymns of praise;
While earth exults, Hell’s furious roar
Proclaims his lord can rule no more,

For Jesus, clad in triumph, leads
The Patriarchs, ransomed from the dead;
Hell’s prey, once chained in bonds of night
Christ frees to rise in life & light.

A stone & seal secured the tomb;
For Christ’s new life it forms a womb;
First-fruits of all that sleep in earth,
He bursts the gates, to vanquish death.

Now mourning’s bitterness shall cease;
Christ’s rising tolls the death of grief;
His angels joyously proclaim
“Death’s end has come; new life now reigns.”

From sin’s dark death, O Jesu, free
Them that again are born of Thee;
Be Thou alone out Spirit’s guest
At this time of our Paschal Feast.

We praise the Father, who is one
With Jesus Christ, His only Son,
And laud as is forever meet,
The Holy Ghost & Paraclete.

(Aurora Caelum purpurat, Office hymn at Lauds from Low Sunday till Ascension – translated by Colin Holden, Easter 1974)

sea-dawn-sky-sunset

 

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Alan Blackwood: Builder of Men


Alan Blackwood is dead, and I salute my former house-master and colleague.

Boys nicknamed Alan “Hoont”, and it was a sort of joke that we all knew why. I never did. I always spelt it in my mind “Hund”, as in the German for “dog”, but that’s the last thing you’d call Mr Blackwood.

As a figure of authority – he was Deputy Headmaster for over 30 years – Alan Blackwood had an extraordinary sense of justice. He believed in corporal punishment and regularly handed out 4 or 6 lashes of the cane for serious offences, but boys rarely felt treated unfairly.

He was always for me an exemplar of manhood. Alan was a big man who held himself well with practised military bearing. He carried the mystique of having served in Special Forces during the war. He spoke less about this experience than Headmaster Peter Moyes, who was also reticent to describe his time in Z Force.

When I returned to the school, I worried about how he would receive me as a colleague. On my first day as chaplain, I called him “Mr Blackwood.” He surprised me with a warm smile. “It’s Alan,” he said, “now you call me Alan.” He turned out to be the easiest of colleagues, supportive, friendly and helpful. In particular on the five-man School Executive, Alan was the encourager, the man who could see how others’ vision could be put into action.

As his chaplain, I never really found out what Alan believed. I suspect he had seen things so horrible in the war, things that human beings should never see, that he had suspended his belief in God. But he also must have seen some special padres, and he held my office in high respect. He fought against measures to dilute the effects of Chapel-going. On the other hand, he did not disguise his contempt (in private, at least) for a chaplain colleague who was not, in his opinion, up to scratch.

Many Old Boys and staff were closer to Alan than I was. But I knew him as a decent, upright human being who loved Christ Church and showed many boys how to be men.